Good Eyesight Requires Annual Checkups

Article excerpt

Byline: Margo E. Schreiber

I'm in my late 60s and haven't had any eye trouble, but many of my friends are talking abut some eyesight problems they've developed. Can you tell me about what to expect as I get older? I would like to talk to my eye doctor about this at my next appointment.

Older people are rightfully concerned abut their eyesight and do not want it to impede driving, reading, or any other activity.

A great deal of anxiety can be caused when there is difficulty seeing a soup label or a shelf or words on a printed page. At the very least, not seeing clearly is frustrating.

Yes, a good set of eyes means the world to us. I'm very glad you have asked about it, especially because August is Cataract Awareness Month.

Before I explain briefly what cataracts and other eye problems are, let me just say that poor eyesight is not inevitable. Most older people see well into their 80s and beyond. This is not to say, though, that you may not benefit by using better lighting or a large print book; after all, you aren't always going to see the way you did in your 20s. Eyes get older just like the rest of our body. With age, there is a higher frequency of certain eye disorders and diseases.

As with anything, the key to good health is regular checkups and early detection. A regular physician can detect treatable diseases as high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which may cause eye problems.

Your eye doctor, who you should also see regularly, can give you a complete exam including a vision evaluation, eye muscle check, check for glaucoma, and thorough internal and external eye health exams. Of course, if anything strange is going on with your eyes, don't wait, but seek immediate attention.

These are the most common eye diseases in older people:

- Cataracts are cloudy areas in the eye lens. If they get large and thick, they can be removed with surgery. This is one of the most common surgeries done in the United States.

- Glaucoma results from too much fluid pressure inside the eye. It can lead to vision loss and blindness. If treated early, glaucoma often can be controlled and blindness prevented. Treatment may be prescription eye drops, oral medications or surgery.

- Retinal disorders are a leading cause of blindness. These disorders include age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinal detachment.

- Macular degeneration. There are two forms of macular degeneration, "dry" and "wet." The dry form, which most people have, is caused by aging and thinning tissues, and vision loss is usually gradual. The wet form results in growth of blood vessels behind the retina that often leak blood and fluid, so vision loss may be rapid. …